Lessons from Ike helping as outages lingerUtility says 17,000 still without power.2008 ordeal led to steps to speed workers to area
By Doug Page StaffWriter
Dayton Daily News
DAYTON, Ohio — Despite thousands of customers remaining without power. DP&L officials said the lessons learned from the remnants of Hurricane Ike in 2008 had them better prepared to begin quickly restoring power after the Friday's powerful wind storm Friday.
"We took Ike to heart," said Bryce Nickel, DP&L senior vice president for operations, "and it paid off."
The utility estimated it would have 95 percent of the 175,000 customers who lost power back up by Wednesday night.
That number was down to 26,000 Sunday afternoon before a smaller storm went through the northern Miami Valley, boosting the number of outages to 52,000. Working through the night the number of outages dropped back to 26,000 Monday morning and 17,000 by Monday evening.
More than 1 million customers in the state were without power after Friday's storm that caused outages all the way to the east coast. By Monday the outages in Ohio had dropped to 445,000. Some 200 National Guard members were called out by Gov. Kasich to aid in relief efforts, mainly in Franklin and Montgomery counties.
DP&L has 1,400 workers tasked with restoring power, using crews from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The utility serves 500,000 customers over 24 counties. According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, at the height of the storm 35 percent of the utility's customers were without power.
"Within 24 hours, we had 1,000 people on the job, about the same number as we had for Ike. The only difference is it took us a week back in 2008 to get that many people on the job," Nickel said.
One of things the utility learned from Ike was the need to strengthen its mutual aid system, particularly with private contractors, he said.
Leslie Sprigg, a utility spokeswoman, said the company joined the Southeastern Electric and visited utilities in the "hurricane belt" to get pointers on dealing with widespread hurricane damage.
The necessity of "hardening" the electrical system and the importance of removing overhanging tree limbs from the power right of way were other major lessons from Ike.
"We've replaced over 10,000 wooden poles with metal ones," Nickel said, "and we've redoubled our tree trimming. We've gone all through our system in the past four years. That's a huge thing."
Sprigg said the utility has cut back trees along the utility's 10,000 miles of power lines.
Despite the hardening of the system and additional planning, Nickel admitted the storm was too much. "We don't get hurricane force winds in Ohio. Yet its happened twice. He had steel poles sheared off at their base in this storm. I can't imagine a system that can completely hold up against a storm that stretched from Fort Wayne to Washington D.C.
"You can't build a system to withstand that."
Jason Black, research leader in energy, environment and material sciences at the research and technology company Battelle, said technology exists to help utilities better identify outages and redirect power, but that technology is costly and might not be useful in a major storm.
"That works when there's a fault here and there, but when you have a massive storm like just happened, and there are faults everywhere, there's not an easy solution to reconfigure anyway," said Black, who is based in Columbus and whose home lost power for a day last weekend. "It's difficult for any company to be totally ready for something like that."
The remnants of Hurricane Ike left 270,000 DP&L customers in the dark when its hurricane force winds hit Sept. 14, 2008. It took 12 days to restore power and the cleanup continued into mid-October.
Ike was the most damaging storm event in Ohio since the Xenia tornado in 1974, causing $1.3 billion in damages, said Mitch Wilson of the Ohio Insurance Institute. Wilson said it would be weeks before the trade group would have even preliminary damage figures. Most damage appears to be downed trees into homes and vehicles, and roof damage, he said.
"A good number of people left the state Friday for vacation. It's a huge vacation week. May people may not even know their property has been damaged," he said.
DP&L's Nickel said he hasn't begun to think about the cost of the repairs.
Matthew Schilling of the Public Utilities Commission said DP&L would have to come before the commission to ask for a rate increase. "The costs incurred from this storm would have to covered in a future application (by the utility) to the commission. We have no estimate of how much damage was done."
Nickel said the utility has worked with the commission in the past. "We haven't yet recovered the costs from Ike."
Most people rode out the storms in their homes. The rain brought temporary cooling during a 90-degree-plus heat wave that is expected to continue at least through the week, according to Storm Center 7 Chief Meterologist Jamie Simpson.
Simpson did not expect any severe weather overnight Monday and is looking at some thunderstorms this evening.
"We're five days into at least a 10-day heat wave," he said.
The last time Dayton saw a heat wave of 10 or more days was in June 13-26, 1994, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
Cooling shelters opened throughout the region. DP&L had free ice at numerous sites in the Miami Valley.
About 50 Ohio National Guard members were going door-to-door in neighborhoods without power, offering assistance and checking on welfare, according Cathy Petersen, Montgomery County spokeswoman.
Time-Warner did not respond to requests about the number of outages for cable subscribers.